Post Formats in WordPress

One thing that I’ve wondered about for quite a while is the box on the right side of the Post Editor dialog that’s titled Format. What do all those formats do? Are they really good for anything? Well today I decided to find out.

The post format documentation isn’t all that helpful to me.

The Post Formats feature provides a standardized list of formats that are available to all themes that support the feature. Themes are not required to support every format on the list.

After reading more closely and following various discussions elsewhere, I understand that post format is a flag that can be used by a theme to change the way a post is displayed. That’s all. The only one that has to be supported is “Standard” (which is this post’s type). All other formats are optional, and if the theme doesn’t support one it reverts back to Standard.

The theme I’m currently using is a child theme of Twenty Thirteen – one of those included as part of the WordPress distribution – so it likely supports all of them. I think I’ll try them all and find out.

The list of built-in formats is as follows:

You can click on the links above to see how they look. Here’s what I’ve found out:

Standard

This is the workhorse. If nothing else, Standard format posts have to look good.

Aside

An Aside is supposed to be a short post that’s displayed (at least in any lists) without its title, and usually without most of the meta data (author, date, etc.)

Audio

An Audio post is intended to be for playing an audio file, and possibly to display some information about that file. WordPress doesn’t include an audio player, but Shortcodes Ultimate does so that’s the player I’m using. The types of audio file you can use depends on the player.

Chat

The documentation suggests that a Chat post is for documenting a chat session, but this theme does nothing with it other than changing the background color. Whoopee.

Gallery

This one actually gave me a bit of a challenge. The documentation says that a Gallery post is intended to display a gallery of images (or other media), but WordPress doesn’t have such a gallery built in. (Actually it does, I think, but it’s taken me a while to figure it out.) I wound up turning on Jetpack’s Carousel module and using that. I’m going to have to write another post specifically about galleries, but not tonight.

Image

An Image post is supposed to be just what it sounds like – a post containing an image. In most cases WordPress does a perfectly good job of displaying an image, but I’ve decided I want something a little fancier so I’ve installed the WP Lightbox 2 plugin so that certain images can be displayed as thumbnails in a post, yet when you click on them the expand into a nice lightbox display overlaying the page. I still need to work on getting things set up nicely.

Link

A Link post is supposed to link to another page or website. From what I can tell the title of the post should be the name of the page/site being linked to, while the body of the post should describe the destination and contain the actual link. This theme takes the first link in the post and uses it as the link coming from the title. Because of this there’s no link to the post (so you’d better not put a “more” tag in it!)

Quote

I am most disappointed in how Twenty Thirteen formats a Quote post. It is practically illegible. The documentation says something about using the title of the post to indicate the originator of the quote and then formatting the body as if it were contained within a blockquote tag. This theme … well you can see what this theme does.

Status

A Status post is pretty much the same as an Aside, in my opinion. In either case you lose the title. I suppose if you were using your blog as a journal this could be helpful, but I don’t have a clear idea of why I’d want to use one over the other.

Video

Video posts are one area where WordPress had made significant improvements of late. For one thing, all you have to do is drop the URL of your video on an empty line in your post and WordPress takes care of the rest. True, there are still some things that could be done better according to certain experts, but for my uses the default actions are great! There is a whitelist of media sites that work with WordPress this way.

Now that I’ve seen them all and have an idea of what they’re supposed to do I’m going to think a while about how best to use them on my sites.(I expect to be exploring custom formats at a later time.)

What about you? How do you make use of WordPress’ built-in post formats? Let me know in the comments below.

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